Climate Change is NOW

“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet, and the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Mitt Romney 10/28/2011
 “Establishment” Republican Nominee for the 2012 Presidential Race

Wait, Mitt, are you telling me you think that half of us believe that we can drive SUVs, burn coal for electricity, and spew black smog into the air without any consequences? Are we so myopic?

Actually, yes. It seems that most of us would rather ignore the problem. Since they peaked during the winter of 2006-07, queries in Google for “Global Warming” have been progressively lower each winter as people scratch their heads, wondering, “Wow, it never used to be so warm this time of year,” without ever asking “why?” It happens every winter, but memories are short and no one notices the pattern. The 20 warmest years ever have all occurred since 1981, and the 10 warmest have all happened in the last 12 years.

As 2011 draws to a close, we are wrapping up one of the warmest years ever, this January through November period is the seventh warmest on record.  In Western New York, we expect to have snow on the ground by this time of the year. I’m used to hearing my friends at the University of Rochester complain about how their flights home for the holidays might be grounded by blizzards, but this year, I saw a kid playing guitar on the quad as late as mid-December. MID-DECEMBER! We should be trudging through snow drifts!

Hey that doesn’t seem so bad… 55 (F) degree temperatures mean that I can ride my bike to campus to take my finals. Who wouldn’t welcome a little global warming?

Well, global warming is a misnomer. The proper monicker is climate change. The trapping of heat on planet Earth by greenhouse gases adds energy to climate patterns. While this will make the Earth warmer in general, we can’t predict what effect this influx of energy to climate patterns will have. Climate scientists are warning the world to prepare for extreme weather patterns as the planet adjusts to the energy we are trapping. Think, more energy in warmer oceans makes for more violent hurricanes.

Climate change is already happening, and we are ALREADY witnessing the weather anomalies that this added energy in the climate system will produce. 2011 has been a weird year for weather, hasn’t it? A heavy snowstorm in late October shut down many Northeastern coastal cities like New York and Philadelphia that hardly ever see snow before December. Droughts across Texas and New Mexico parched Southeastern Americans this summer, and 20 cities in the United States set all-time record heat highs! The problem isn’t localized to the United States, either. Does anybody remember the disastrous floods in Thailand? According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, these freak weather events are caused by the warming of our planet.

Climate change is staring us in the face every time we wear our spring coats in the winter. But nobody seems to notice. As Mitt Romney’s statements make clear, nobody really wants to own up to the fact that our civilization is causing this problem. Numerous scientific indicators, including tree rings and glacial ice cores, indicate a steadily accelerating rise in global average temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, and the empirical data can only be explained by climate models that account for anthropogenic forces. In other words, there is no scientific explanation for the observed warming of the planet other than human activity.

But we all go about our daily lives driving cars and leaving the lights on, and the people who see this problem developing are shrugged off as loons. It’s okay, I’m guilty of it, too. Who wants to believe that doomsday is coming? 

We are just going to need to adjust to living in a new world in a decade or two. Maybe it will be one where warmer seas produce deadlier hurricanes. Maybe it will be one in which New York City’s subway system and driving tunnels have been flooded by rising sea levels. I don’t know what it will look like, but I believe that the weather will be worse and I refuse to kick the climate-change-can any further down the generational timeline. Our climate is changing now, and our only hope of saving the quality of the environment in the future is international regulation. We’re not going to get that, though, as long as it remains a requirement that the candidates for the presidential nomination of one of the two major parties in the most powerful nation in the world doubt the science of climate change. WAKE UP, AMERICA.

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